Toward a generic theory for social permaculture

Toward a generic theory for social permaculture

Social evolution is driven by natural variation (biodiversity), avante garde influences, mimesis & zeitgeist. Evolution in nature has twin drivers (according to tradition): mutation & selection. Any generic theory developed for social permaculture ought to be based on these views. You get initiators at the leading edge of change – more often role models than leaders. Those who can, do. Others then copy. Societal divisions form in consequence: pioneers & cheerleaders are typically 1% of the populace, then you get early adopters scaling the trend up to 10%.

These barbarians at the gate of the citadel of normalcy are up against mainstreamers, about half of whom are susceptible to rethinking with the other half being resistant – including around 10% who are often inclined to present as neanderthals. In social science these divisions wear pc labels.

A project designer intervenes within this societal context, and ecosystemic relations must be finessed to get the desired outcome for the project. Prospects of success are optimal if the practitioner has expertise and is adept at using it, has sufficient relational skills, and includes affected stakeholders.

Nowadays, using a changemaker group to co-design & drive process & operations is the best way to scale up influence & acquire leverage to shift the status quo. Flying solo may tempt any independent designer, but co-dependency emerges from community – and online networking happens in non-local context. Doing your own thing gives you independence but you’re more likely to be constrained by communal needs so best to get real about that. Small groups form when like-minded activists join up in aspiration to achieve common goals, motivated by common interests, and work together to expand their collective influence on a common ground. Doing so generates a commons ethos.

Social evolution involves shifts in culture, with a morphing effect on those affected. Humans have an innate inertial tendency which makes them conservative, plus an improvisational experimental tendency which makes them adaptive and inclined to shift away from an unsatisfactory status quo. Our evolutionary default into social cohesion and our predisposition to innovate at times both became survival skills. We combine the differences between unique individuals with the commonalities that connect us to our groups. Collective intelligence uses a relational view of life and integral thinking to join the two into an overview of how to live and work together in harmony – people sometimes do so effectively, but to err is human.

An activist has an interface with each social context he/she operates in. Note the triadic structure of the previous sentence: user/interface/context. Social permaculture can be prescriptive, but best to keep it to a simple formula like that. A triad is a set with three elements that takes effect due to the influence of the number 3, according to neopythagorean metaphysics – in which the simple integers which produce form & function in nature, organisms and ecosystems operate as archetypes. This view defines archetypes as pattern-forming factors which emerge from the realm of potential. Here’s the process triad: start/operation/end.

Any decision and consequent activity occurs in temporal context too, with effect & meaning relative to those affected and what it means to them. Your environment contains the dimensions of nature & society, and time is part of nature. Ecosystems self-organise naturally via complex energy/info flows – our innate attunement makes us cohere in response to life’s changes. Survival of the fittest occurs when we optimise our fit together in harmony, as King Charles III explained in his book Harmony (2010). Thirty years have passed since the editor of The Ecologist, Edward Goldsmith, published The Way, a comprehensive outline of how to do it.

In the deep Green view of life, a Gaian entity is a live spirit in organic form. Life experience is more than just organisms in ecosystems: our experiences are both local and non-local, both natural and social, both personal and organisational – and they are anchored by subtle influences that are spiritual and cosmic.

So, proceeding on the basis of this view, we transit from knowing into doing. Catalysing social evolution tends to become a steering skill, via techne (ancient Greek for know-how). For anyone using social permaculture, relevant technique and technology must be applied to achieve the desired result - it’s essential to include all key stakeholders and groups in the process in preliminary consultation and later feedback. Any resistance becomes an operational constraint which may dissolve with comprehension and goodwill. Folk who are alienated are like rocks in the flow of process, so steer around them. Success is often partial.

Change-maker groups using co-design serve as an exemplary microcosm for the sheeple macrocosm. Slow learners need to see how doers do it, then they can copy. To work well, an activist group and a web of such groups will feature pathfinders & cheerleaders, creators & coordinators, networkers & shepherds. It must develop a transcendent outlook and resilience ethos with collective decision-making skills, lateral-thinking, intergenerational equity, co-design praxis, plus leverage & scaling expertise. Teamwork develops from mutual goal focus, task selection, resonance & group psychodynamics, planning & methods, operational design, skill & talents, constraints & discipline, guidelines & rules, negative feedback, plus ethos, mythos & thymos.

These elements weave together into a system via incentive-structures deriving from mutual motivations and our common interests. Activists usually acquire an identity portfolio which includes self-image and roles played in various social contexts. Metacognition shifts these from tacit to conscious awareness and shapeshifting can then become a tactical survival skill rather than instinctive adaptation to circumstance. Our decisions combine the real and the imaginal, so we often simulate when the situation requires it. Authenticity is a more reliable value, but we do both to survive and prosper.

To pull it all together into a generic theory for social permaculture, I recommend neopythagorean metaphysics. This consists of discerning how 1, 2, 3 & 4 create form & function in nature and society, along with the circle and the spiral. These archetypes are how nature works: they generate patterns in the emergence process. Patterns seem to emerge from the informational dimension. One integrates, while two differentiates, and three relates, so parts pair up then link into wholes. Four grounds these into context, turning them into systems via these states - solid/liquid/gas/plasma – earth/water/air/fire.

Space-time is Einstein’s four-dimensional model of reality. If we instead expand relativity from the physical theory he developed to include the concept as a metaphysical principle which enables something to relate to something else, we can envision a further dimension beyond physics which is relational and informational. This 5th dimension seems to be the source of creativity in nature. Readers who lack grounding in systems theory ought to read The Systems View of Life: a unifying vision (2014), co-authored by physicist Fritjof Capra and biochemist Pier Luigi Luisi...